Re: The benefits of stretching.
Stretching keeps you lean, limber, and resistant to injury.
Stretching improves joint health, builds mind-muscle connection, and speeds up recovery.
When you lift weights but don’t stretch you become ‘musclebound’. Your body becomes stiff, clunky and tight.
Stretching smooths elongates muscles, making you look aesthetic.
Frank Zane, the man who possessed the best looking physique of all time, stretched his muscles between every set.
Stretching is a great way to ease tension and stress as well as strengthen your body. The beauty is that stretching can be done anywhere and it’s especially powerful as an end-cap to a hard workout.
Stretching is also a good indicator of overall health and fitness levels.
[Just a heads up, I get a little preachy in this article but it needs to be said.]
Get Flexible to Get Healthy
Show me how flexible you are and I will tell you how healthy you are.
Flexibility and health are directly correlated, meaning that flexibility is a good measure of your overall health and fitness level.
The body is the mind.
If you’re flexible physically, you’re flexible mentally and therefore more fit for life.
This might seem like a weird statement but consider this – Physically flexible people, like athletes, function better in dynamic situations at work and in life.
Having a flexible body is the physical manifestation of mental dexterity and dynamism.
Take a look at the big roid-rage meatheads – they aren’t very flexible physically or mentally. (just read the articles over at bodybuilding dot com or T Nation and you’ll know what I’m talking about.)
They are one dimensional – they know how to get big, but that’s all they know how to do.
We’re different here at Iron and Grit. I’m into Universal Fitness. I want strong bodies, stronger minds, and even stronger spirit. I want a six-pack, seven-figure income, meaningful relationships and rewarding work.
Helping people that have a life outside the gym accomplish their fitness goals and achieve their dream body is my main mission. All while managing work, a family and experiencing life to the fullest. I want to have it all and I want you to have it all too!
Anyway, I’ll step down from my soapbox now and get back to the point –
Now, look at real athletes with lean, flexible physiques – they are quick on their feet, literally and figuratively.
You stay healthy, fit and injury free when you have high flexibility. Your muscles are more elastic and less likely to strain.
Stretching also aligns your muscle fibers making them work together more effectively thus giving you more strength.
Flexibility means you are increasing the effective range of motion for a muscle, tissue, or joint.
You’re also more fit professionally and socially.
Look at sales people for example:
The best sales people are lean and many of them that I know were competitive athletes. And almost all of them have a workout routine of some sort – running, biking and/or lifting.
A flexible body is lean and strong. A lean and strong body is energizing. And it takes energy to be healthy, happy and enjoy life.
Stay Flexible to Stay Healthy
We are all born flexible.
Look at the 9 month old fetus curled up in it’s mother’s womb. Pretty flexible little bugger.
That was you and that was me.
So, what the hell happened?
Why are people so bent out of shape? (literally)
Because our environment is shaping us – making us pudgy and crooked and stiff (and weak).
Sitting in a chair all day at work, then sitting in a car seat on the drive home and sitting on a couch at home isn’t doing anybody any damn good!
All this sitting is causing your joints to rust and body to decay.
When your health begins to slip, your flexibility will be one of the first things to deteriorate.
First you’ll stop moving around as much. Then your body will get tight and tense. So you move around even less. You’ll gain more and more weight, lose your limberness, and your health will slowly decline.
“I’m just getting older”, you tell yourself.
Old age my ass. I know 50 year olds that could kick the shit out of most 25 year olds.
What do these 50 year old bad-asses do differently? They take care of their body. They don’t take it for granted. You should get better with age. Not worse.
So stay flexible.
Flexible People are Healthier and More Fit
Let me make another point here – not all healthy people are flexible, but all flexible people are healthy.
To add to that, the healthy people that aren’t flexible probably aren’t going to be healthy as long as the flexible people will be.
Who’s flexible? Runners, competitive athletes, and powerlifters that aren’t overweight. These guys stretch and have well-rounded training that’s good for optimal fitness.
Who is considered ‘healthy’ but is are not flexible? Some powerlifters and most gym bros. Most power lifters are fat, inflexible and could be at higher risk for cardiovascular issues do to no aerobic conditioning. And the typical gym bro will fall off the wagon eventually when he’s in it just ‘for the gains’.
A true fitness routine is well rounded. It doesn’t neglect any aspect of training. And that includes stretching.
The Benefits of Stretching
Obviously stretching improves flexibility. But is also provides many benefits that you’ll want to cash in on:
Stretching Stimulates Muscle Growth and Recovery – Stretch sore muscles to stimulate growth and recovery.
Reduce Muscle Tightness and Discomfort – reduces muscle discomfort. If you sit down all day your legs might get ‘restless’.
Blood fills in your legs and has a hard time making it back up. Your legs will feel heavy or tight.
Alleviate or eliminate this tight feeling with a solid stretching routine. Stretches that target calves, quads and hamstrings are perfect for this.
Stretching Improves Muscle Definition – When you stretch, you align muscles fibers. These fibers are what give muscles a defined look.
Stretching Improve Muscle Shape – You can literally shape your muscles with stretching. If your chest muscles are balled up like man boobs, you can stretch them into a wide square shape. You are the Architect of your body. You can literally shape your muscles with stretching. Men that want full muscles that flow into one muscle group to the next beautifully or women that want to have tight and toned abs, arms, ass and legs will see improvement with daily stretching. Stretching Shape your muscles
Stretching is a Workout! – Holding stretches requires flexion from certain muscle groups to hold your position. When toughing your toes for example, you have to flex you abs to pull you forward and flex your quads to keep your legs straight.
This ‘flex and hold’ is similar to an isometric workout.
Stretching is both a workout and recovery in one.
Build More Muscle – The strongest and fittest people on Earth are buff AND flexible. Flexibility means increased range of motion. increased range of motion means more muscle fibers are engaged when training. More engage means more muscle growth potential.
More flexibility > train muscles through greater range of motion > muscles get larger due to more muscle fibers being incorporated into lifts. Plus you can lift more weight through a greater range of motion.
Improve Post-Workout Recovery – Stretching flushes lactic acid out of tired muscles and brings in blood with fresh nutrients and proteins to rebuild.
Improve Circulation – Stretching improves blood flow and lymph fluid circulation. These fluids bringing good stuff into your muscles while filtering out the bad stuff.
Reduce Tension and Stress – Stretching is the most meditative act. Stretching is why yogis are so flexible, man. Stretching smooths and soothes muscle knots and realigns the muscles fibers.
Improve Mind-Muscle connection – Stretching gets you in tune with your muscles. You can focus on feeling your muscles when stretching. Mind-muscle connection is an important skill to build a great physique. Feel your muscles stretch and hold stretches strengthen mind-muscle connection.
Flexibility Improves Strength – You can generate power through a greater range of motion. Recruiting more muscle fibers and muscle groups to move the weight. Take Dmitry Klokov for example. He is the greatest strength athlete in the world and is extremely flexible.
Here’s a video of his stretching below – This dude is built like a tank: 6’1”, 235 pounds and lifts 400 pounds over his head like it’s a cupcake.
My Daily Stretching Routine
I stretch for about 10 minutes. You don’t have to spend a half hour doing mobility work. Just touch your toes and hold that position for a little bit.
The farther you stretch, the more you’ll stretch your legs and back muscles.
Reaching farther and farther stretches all the muscles in your back and decompresses the spine. It loosens the hips and strengthens the core.
I stretch after every workout.
Sometimes I’ll stretch in between sets. My in between set stretches are typically for traps, forearms, and chest. These muscles seem to get very tight.
Even a light stretch is better than no stretch so make it a point to stretch at least 5-10 minutes after a workout and try new stretches in between sets.
The Best Stretches to Improve Flexibility
My stretching routine focuses primarily on lower body and back with a few upper body stretches sprinkled in.
To stretch your hamstrings, lay on the floor with your legs straight and touching each other. Try to touch your toes. Pull your toes and feet back toward you and stretch your calf muscle.
A good stretch should hurt. Hold the position for 5-10 deep steady breaths. For at least 30 seconds.
If you can touch your toes, grab your calfs of ankles and pull your chest toward your knees (keep your legs straight! Your calf should maintain contact with the ground at all times.)
Do this and gradually pull yourself further and further down. Eventually you will be able to touch your toes.
This is the #1 stretch to do. It stretches my hamstrings, back muscles and I’m in position to pull my toes back to stretch my calfs.
Quadriceps, (front of your thigh muscle) are stretched by bending one leg up and grabbing your ankle. Pull up on your ankle and pull your knee back. Try to touch the bottom of your foot to your back. You probably won’t be able to because that’s super advanced stretching but image doing that to get the form right. Lean against something to brace you so you keep balanced.
Calf stretches can be done by pulling your toes back with your fingers (when you’re flexible enough to do it). Until then, you can elevate the front of your foot on a ledge or step and lean forward to stretch the calf.
If you’re the typical bro that likes to hit chest often, it’s important to stretch your chest. Stretching your chest will give it a nice shape over your rib cage. It also keeps your chest from getting tight.
A tight chest makes the pec muscle look like a ball, or man-boob, and causes your shoulders to roll forward. With can lead to back pain. In fact, when I feel tension or pain in my upper back, I stretch out my chest as part of the remedy.
Grab a side of a doorway with each hand or power rack pole, then hang on and lean your torso forward like you’re doing a swan dive. You should feel a nice stretch through your chest muscles. If you feel it in you shoulders, adjust the height of your grip.
You can also use weights to stretch your chest. Grab some light dumbbells and set yourself up in a chest fly position by laying on a bench. Then let the weight pull your arms down as far as they will go.
Keep your back down and your chest puffed up. Hold the stretch for 15+ seconds breathing in deep and slow.
Roll up lay flat on the ground, curls your legs up and throw them over your face until only your upper back is in contact with the ground. This is a GREAT stretch for traps and all the muscles running along your spine.
You can stretch your lats by grabbing a pole and twisting in the opposite direction.
Start Your Stretching Routine Today!
Getting flexible should be your number one priority if you want to get fit.
Not many people workout regularly and even a smaller amount stretch regularly.
That’s unfortunate because stretching reduces muscle tension and elevates soreness. Stretching also helps build more muscle and reduces risk of injury including muscle tears and tendon damage.
Flexibility keeps your muscles, joints, tissues and tendons resilient to stress, wear and tear. If you want to be fit and feel good for a long time, make sure you stretch regularly!